Three questions for female and male researchers, to get rid of gender bias and fight for emancipation.

Ghislaine Dehaene-Lambertz is a French researcher in cognitive psychology, specialist of infant brain development. In this interview Ghislaine tells us all about her difficult position regarding feminism and gives her advice to the next generation of researchers.

P. Magistretti, T. Mrsic-Flogel and G. Daheane-Lanbertz

SYNAPSY : What are the most obvious gender inequalities in the world of research?

Ghislaine Dehaene-Lambertz : One of the most irritating problem relates to how authors are listed in articles. When researchers work together, the way the collaboration is perceived varies according to gender. If the researcher is a woman, the assistance she gives is seen as being ‘normal’ and her name won’t be retained in the list of authors. But if it’s a man, the fact that he has been taken away from his research to help means he’s a real contributor and he will be included as one of the authors. I don’t think it’s down to male researchers not wanting to see women featuring in lists of authors but because women’s contribution remains invisible. It’s the well-known stereotype of the empathic woman. Since women are conciliatory by nature, they don’t fight to be included as authors nor higher hierarchical positions. When it comes down to it, women’s CVs have fewer publications on them and their access to academic positions suffers as a result.

Another problem is that women often do not want to take up positions of responsibility. If you take me as an example, I’m sorry but I have absolutely no desire to be director of a centre or department. Putting positions of responsibility to one side, female students searching for a postdoc will first look at what their boyfriends are doing. But they should be looking at what’s important to them, even if it’s often a bit difficult. Personally, I was lucky enough to be able to do the same things as my partner, and at the same time and in the same place as him (Ghislaine is married to the neuroscientist Stanislas Dehaene). It’s generally the women who adapt, and then there are children, which also interrupts your career.

S : How is your career, which has been so successful, perceived?

GDL : Pretty well, I guess. On the other hand, I’ve always worried a bit about feminist movements. They claim more female in basic science but criticize the fact that I am looking after children for my research, just because it’s the classical role attributed to women. It’s the implicit bias that people have, and I don’t fit neatly into a box.

S : What would you say to the next generation of women researchers?

GDL : Everything depends on the life of the individual, so it’s difficult to give advice. I would say that you have to grab opportunities when they come along because it is also a question of how you act. In France, male and female researchers as a whole are depressed by the lack of posts, and they’re downtrodden in advance. But this kind of behaviour has always exasperated me because I think that at some point you have to take control of your own destiny. I suggest that the women researchers of tomorrow read the book Indignez-Vous by Stephan Hessel, who fought in the Resistance. When you think of all the things that were achieved during the post-war period when everything was destroyed – well, I think our lives are more comfortable in 2018. You have to try, you have to rebound and – above all – stop saying that it’s all a foregone conclusion! A bit of optimism, please!

To be announced